The Guilty: Story Told Through Phone Calls

"Broken people save broken people." - Sgt. Denise Wade

· 5 min read
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Not many can replicate a real-life scenario and transform it into a cinematic masterpiece.

Many may take the route of making documentaries or autobiographies, however, this story stands its ground and makes it into a proper movie.

Not to mention the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal's masterful acting is definitely what raises the quality of a film such as this.

Gustav Möller, the film's co-writer and director, confirms that watching actual crime footage served as the source of his inspiration.

Möller's inspiration for the movie came from a real 911 emergency call and the true-crime podcast Serial.

The fact that this film manages to tell so much with so little is truly a great example of what potential a minimalistic movie can hold for its audience.

Masterpiece told through pieces

a person sitting in front five monitors as he attends phone calls

Netflix's The Guilty has some of the best methods of piecing together a story like a puzzle. In the initial stages of the film, we are introduced to the protagonist of this film, Joe Baylor.

We as the audience, naturally assume that this is the man who we are supposed to root for throughout the movie as he protects the innocent.

Yet, by the end of the film, we can only applaud Joe for surrendering to the guilt he has racked up from the mistakes he has made as a police officer.

Even the so-called victim, was not as innocent as she had presented herself after a few interactions.

The entire film plays like a puzzle and we, the audience, are the ones who have to piece it together to make sense of all the information presented to us.  

Thus, the film is a masterpiece told through pieces.

As it does not follow just one linear storyline, it lays out its pieces for three storylines all taking place simultaneously.

This is just one out of the many reasons why The Guilty is a top-tier crime thriller movie.

Grounded and raw

a person breaking down while on a phone call

Jake Gyllenhaal being the talented actor that he is, brings out his A-game in this film.

With the film mainly revolving the camera around one person throughout the majority of the runtime, it is of utmost importance that the actor pulls out those emotions as authentically as possible.  

The plot of the film is as rooted in our times as it could be.

Joe Baylor is a police detective who is thrust into becoming a 911 operator as a method of getting him off the field due to his antics.

Even though it is clear he does not want to be in that position, his seriousness toward protecting civilians is still very much present.

Joe Baylor is a flawed man with good intentions.

The man who was a convicted felon also turned out to just be a man trying to do the right thing under the worst circumstances given to him.

It is a plot that does not hold any place for fantasy characters who are perfect in every aspect.

The very raw emotion that Jake Gyllenhaal pushes out to sell that Joe Baylor is a troubled man is phenomenal.

The Guilty is a film that is guaranteed to leave its audience moved with how it displays the flaws in the justice system and how a simple detective can easily get lost in the chaos of it all.  

Anger and redemption

A cop looking at himself in the mirror sternly

As one would assume, The Guilty revolves around the themes of redemption and regret.

The film manages to capture the emotions and the thought process of what our protagonist is going through as he struggles with his family, friends, and work all at once.

Joe Baylor loves his daughter and wants to be present for her yet he has to fight this urge every day as he puts on his uniform.

What really conflicts inside Joe is the guilt of whether he deserves the life he is fighting for throughout the film.

His anger is rooted in that conflict that he faces and we as the audience get to witness his anger management issues from the very moment a slightly stressful situation crosses his path.    

Redemption is a core theme of this film and it reveals itself in the most gut-wrenching scenes.

He knows that his deeds are not something that can be dismissed.

He knows what he has done is not something that can be undone.

Our protagonist is forced to fight his inner demons as he attempts to rescue a family that he has grown to care about through the few phone calls he has had with them.

Forgiveness through punishment

a man listening carefully while on a call

The film makes it absolutely clear that Joe Baylor is a no non-sense person and charges head-first into any situation.

A hothead such as him wielding the title of a police detective is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

As his treatment toward criminals is "shoot first, ask later", it becomes abundantly clear that this man has given the uniform a bad name more than a few times during his work hours.

Even when he finds out that his case is connected to an ex-felon, his first thought instantly goes toward him being the prime suspect for all the wrongdoings.

The movie could have gone that route and ended up as a perfectly okay production.

It is the choice of pushing forward the reality that not everyone lives by the labels they were given and yet will be treated the same regardless.

This is what our protagonist learns by the end of the film. Forgiveness can only be sought after having faced the punishment for the same.

Forgiveness that is given before punishment is merely mercy, but forgiveness after punishment is a gift not many come by.

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“It’s A Dangerous Thing To Mistake Speaking Without Thought For Speaking The Truth.”-Benoit Blanc